CHRONICLES, THE BOOKS OF
Two inspired books of the Hebrew Scriptures that were apparently one volume in the original Hebrew canon. The Masoretes regarded them as one single work, and they are reckoned as one book in the counts that regard the Hebrew Scriptures as made up of 22 or 24 books, and as two books in the count that regards the total number of books as 39. The division into two books seemingly originated with the translators of the Greek Septuagint. In Hebrew manuscripts the twofold division began in the 15th century. In the Hebrew text, Chronicles appears at the end of the section called Writings. The Hebrew name, Div·rehʹ Hai·ya·mimʹ, means “The Affairs of the Days.” Jerome suggested the name Khro·ni·konʹ, from which we get Chronicles in the English Bible. A chronicle is a record of happenings in the order in which they occurred. The Greek title (in the Septuagint) is Pa·ra·lei·po·meʹnon, meaning “Things Passed Over (Left Untold; Omitted),” that is, from the books of Samuel and Kings. However, it is to be noted that the Chronicles are by no means a mere supplement to those books.
Writer, Time, and Period Covered. The Jewish priest Ezra is recognized, for a number of reasons, as the writer. Jewish tradition has long held to this view. It is also supported by the striking resemblance between the writing style of Chronicles and the style of the book of Ezra. There is repetition at the close of Second Chronicles and at the beginning of Ezra that is virtually word for word. Moreover, the statement of Cyrus’ decree found at the end of Second Chronicles is given in full in the book of Ezra, indicating that the writer closed the book of Chronicles with the intention of writing another book (Ezra) that would deal with the decree and its execution more fully. Chronicles was completed about 460 B.C.E. Evidently, only two books of the Hebrew canon were completed after 460 B.C.E., namely, Nehemiah and Malachi.
Aside from the genealogical lists that run from Adam, the Chronicles cover the period from the death of King Saul to the carrying away of exiles to Babylon, with a conclusion telling of Cyrus’ decree at the end of the 70-year exile.
Sources. Ezra assumed that his readers were familiar with the books of Kings and therefore did not try to cover the same ground. The material he used, which in some instances reads exactly or nearly like portions of Kings, is included only in order to retain that which, by its relationship, gives meaning to the additional information in Chronicles. It may be that Ezra used the books of Samuel and Kings as well as some other parts of the Bible as sources, but it seems that in most if not all cases, he had access to writings not now known to be in existence. Some of these may have been documents of state from both Israel and Judah, genealogical records, and historical works written by prophets, also documents possessed by tribal or family heads. A portion of the sources used were no doubt the work of professional recorders.—1Ki 4:3.
Ezra names or describes as follows some of the sources he used:
(3) The Book of the Kings of Israel (2Ch 20:34) (The above-listed sources may be the same collection of state documents, with varied ways of stating the title, or could possibly refer to the books of Kings in the Bible.)
(4) The Book of the Kings of Israel (evidently a genealogical work) (1Ch 9:1)
(5) The exposition of the Book of the Kings (2Ch 24:27) (for information on Jehoash of Judah)
(6) The affairs of the kings of Israel (2Ch 33:18) (for information on Manasseh)
(7) The words of Samuel the seer and of Nathan the prophet and of Gad the visionary (1Ch 29:29) (for information on David) (This may be one work, two, or three; or it may refer to Judges and the books of Samuel.)
(8) The words of Nathan the prophet (2Ch 9:29) (for information on Solomon)
(9) The prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2Ch 9:29) (about Solomon)
(10) “Shemaiah . . . wrote” (1Ch 24:6) (about David), and the words of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the visionary by genealogical enrollment (2Ch 12:15) (about Rehoboam) (perhaps two or three sources)
(11) The words of Jehu the son of Hanani, which were inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel (2Ch 20:34) (about Jehoshaphat)
(12) The rest of the affairs of Uzziah, by Isaiah the son of Amoz the prophet (2Ch 26:22)
(13) The words of (Manasseh’s) visionaries (2Ch 33:19)
(14) Dirges (of Jeremiah, and possibly of singers) (2Ch 35:25) (about Josiah)
(15) The exposition of the prophet Iddo (2Ch 13:22) (about Abijah)
(16) The account of the affairs of the days of King David (1Ch 27:24)
(17) The commandment of David and of Gad and of Nathan the prophet (2Ch 29:25) (as enforced by Hezekiah)
(18) The writing of David and of Solomon his son (2Ch 35:4) (as referred to by Josiah)
(19) The commandment of David and of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun the visionary of the king (2Ch 35:15) (referred to in connection with Josiah’s acts)
(20) The writing of Elijah to King Jehoram of Judah (2Ch 21:12-15)
(There are also references in Chronicles to writings, particularly genealogies, that may designate other sources used by Ezra.)
It is evident that Ezra was extremely careful, doing meticulous research, going through all the documentary sources accessible to him, evidently investigating every document that would shed light on the subject. He documents his writings not merely as proof of accuracy as to what he has written but also to direct the reader of that time to other sources for more detail. Ezra’s painstaking thoroughness should commend the Chronicles as worthy of our utmost confidence in their accuracy and historical authenticity. But, above all, the knowledge that Ezra wrote under inspiration (2Ti 3:16) and the fact that the Chronicles are included in the Hebrew canon, fully accepted by Jesus and the apostles (Lu 24:27, 44), ensure their reliability. Moreover, the Chronicles constitute part of the complete written Word of God, the purity of which he has guarded for the followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. These facts recommend Chronicles highly as a source of faith.
Purpose. Ezra’s work was not merely to fill in what was left out by the books of Samuel and Kings; rather, he discerned among the returned exiles the need of such a summary of their national history. The work was undoubtedly prepared for those recently returned from exile, as they would be greatly lacking in knowledge of their sacred history and customs. They needed to know about temple worship and the duties of Levites, and Ezra provided this information. And to the returned exiles few things would have greater interest than their ancestral genealogies, to which Ezra devoted much attention. Israel was functioning again as a nation, in their land, with temple, priesthood, and governor, even though without a king. They would continue as a nation down to the Messiah’s coming. They needed the information Chronicles provided for unity and true worship.
Both Samuel and Jeremiah were historical writers, but they were also Levites. Jeremiah was a prophet and a priest. Ezra was a priest. But it is a mistake to say that Jeremiah would be especially interested in the fulfillment of prophecies and not so interested in the matters of temple worship and that Ezra would be especially interested in Levitical work and not so interested in prophecies. Both of them were servants of God and had concern for his words, his dealings with his people, and every feature of his worship. The fact is that Ezra was inspired by Jehovah to produce the books of Chronicles and Ezra for a special purpose.
The Jews who returned from Babylon in 537 B.C.E. did so, not to establish political independence, but to restore true worship, the first work being to erect the altar and then to rebuild the temple. It was appropriate, therefore, that much be said by Ezra concerning worship and the services of the priesthood and the Levites. Also, the genealogies were important. Ezra 2:59-63 shows that some, including certain sons of the priests, were unable to find their register to establish their genealogy publicly. While in Babylon these genealogies might not have been so important, but now they were the means of regaining possession of the heritage of their fathers. This is one of the reasons for the lists of genealogies compiled by Ezra, which are also of great value to Bible students today.
Thus we see that Ezra in writing Chronicles wished to strengthen his contemporaries in fidelity to Jehovah. He encouraged them to fulfill their covenant duties by focusing on the past history of Israel, and particularly by the use of actual historical examples he emphasized the results of faithful adherence to true worship on the one hand and, on the other hand, the calamity of forsaking the worship of Jehovah God.
Value of the Books. It is a fine thing for our faith and understanding of the Bible that the books of Chronicles were written. Ezra has added much concerning the temple worship and the arrangements of the priests, Levites, doorkeepers, singers, and musicians. He has given us many details that bear on true worship: the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem by David (1Ch chaps 15, 16); David’s preparations for the temple and its service (1Ch chaps 22–29); the fact that the priests stayed with Rehoboam at the time of the secession of the ten tribes (2Ch 11:13-17); the war between Abijah and Jeroboam (2Ch 13); the reforms in favor of true religion under Asa (2Ch chaps 14, 15), Jehoshaphat (2Ch chaps 17, 19, 20), Hezekiah (2Ch chaps 29–31), and Josiah (2Ch chaps 34, 35); Uzziah’s being stricken with leprosy for his presumptuousness (2Ch 26:16-21); and Manasseh’s repentance (2Ch 33:10-20).
Ezra shows that he is interested not only in priestly affairs but also in the prophets. (2Ch 20:20; 36:12, 16) He uses the words “prophet,” “seer,” or “visionary” about 45 times and gives added information on many prophets and persons whose names are not otherwise mentioned in the Scriptures. A few are Iddo, Eliezer the son of Dodavahu, Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, a number of people named Zechariah, and Oded of the time of King Ahaz of Judah.
There is much information in Chronicles that helps to round out our knowledge of the history of Judah, for example, the record of the sickness and burial of Asa and of the bad conduct of Jehoash after Jehoiada the high priest died. Then there are the genealogies that are vital in establishing the lineage of Christ. The books are also of assistance in establishing an accurate chronology. Here we can see the wisdom of Jehovah, the Author of the Bible, in having his servant Ezra write these things to fill in that which is necessary so that believers in the Bible have the most complete and harmonious record of man’s history.
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HIGHLIGHTS OF FIRST CHRONICLES
Genealogy and details regarding true worship at Jehovah’s temple, especially needed following the exile in Babylon
Written perhaps 55 years after Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, and before Jerusalem’s walls were restored
Genealogies from Adam onward (1:1–9:44)
Judah’s posterity through David and Solomon (vital in identifying the Messiah)
Levi’s posterity (needed to identify those who could properly serve at the temple) and their various temple duties
Saul’s unfaithfulness results in his death (10:1-14)
Aspects of David’s rule as king (11:1–29:30)
Anointed anew as king while at Hebron; captures Zion; later made king over all Israel
Ark of covenant moved improperly, on wagon; Uzzah dies for touching Ark; Ark finally brought to the City of David amid rejoicing
David expresses desire to build a temple for Jehovah; instead, Jehovah makes covenant for royal house to time indefinite with David
Enemies of Israel are defeated on all sides
David is incited by Satan to take a census of Israel; 70,000 die
Extensive preparations made for building of the temple; David organizes the Levites, arranges 24 divisions of priests, also assigns singers, gatekeepers; gives inspired architectural plans to Solomon; David and the people contribute generously
David dies after Solomon begins to sit on “Jehovah’s throne”
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HIGHLIGHTS OF SECOND CHRONICLES
A vivid summary of history under kings of the royal house of David, highlighting the consequences of obedience to God and of disobedience
Originally part of one scroll with First Chronicles
The kingship of Solomon (1:1–9:31)
His wisdom, prosperity; but unwisely he acquires many horses from Egypt and has as a wife the daughter of Pharaoh
Construction of the temple; Solomon’s prayer of dedication
Queen of Sheba visits
Events associated with the reign of other kings of the royal house of David, and their outcome (10:1–36:23)
Following Rehoboam’s harsh reply ten tribes break away under Jeroboam and turn to calf worship; Rehoboam also leaves God’s law, is abandoned to Shishak of Egypt
Because Abijah leans upon Jehovah, Judah is victorious over army of Israel that relies on superior numbers and worship of golden calves; 500,000 are slain
When Asa relies on Jehovah, a million invading Ethiopians are defeated; Asa foolishly makes alliance with Syria and gets incensed over rebuke from Jehovah’s prophet
Jehoshaphat institutes program of education in God’s law; unwisely makes marriage alliance with Ahab
Moab, Ammon, Seir invade Judah; Jehoshaphat turns to Jehovah for help; reminded, ‘The battle is God’s!’
Jehoram (whose wife is daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) acts wickedly, as does his son Ahaziah; then murderous Athaliah, Jehoram’s widow, usurps the throne
Jehoash starts out well under High Priest Jehoiada’s influence; later becomes apostate and orders stoning of faithful Zechariah
Amaziah begins well, then worships idols of Seir; defeated by Israel, assassinated
Uzziah also begins well; later haughtily attempts to offer incense in temple, is smitten with leprosy
Jotham does right, but people act ruinously
Ahaz turns to Baal worship; nation suffers severely
Hezekiah cleans up temple; Sennacherib invades Judah, taunts Jehovah; Hezekiah relies on Jehovah; 185,000 Assyrians slain by angel
Manasseh practices gross idolatry and sheds much innocent blood; taken captive by Assyrians; repents, is restored by Jehovah to his throne
Amon follows bad example of his father Manasseh; does not humble himself
Josiah conducts zealous religious reform, repairs temple; insists on fighting Pharaoh Necho and is killed
Jehoahaz rules briefly, then is taken captive to Egypt
Jehoiakim acts detestably; son and successor Jehoiachin is taken captive to Babylon
Zedekiah rebels against Babylon’s yoke; Jews are carried into exile; land desolate 70 years
Cyrus of Persia issues decree liberating Jews for return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple